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Why "Russiagate" Still has Legs; How Misinformation Propagates

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Message Wayne Coste

Major 'News' sources report an important event, but, misconstrue it.
Major 'News' sources report an important event, but, misconstrue it.
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Many people still believe, as a "believed fact," that the Russian Federation hacked into the Democratic National Committee's (DNC's) computer system and helped Trump steal the 2016 election. Even though three years of investigations have not provided any basis for these allegations Russiagate, as a "believed fact," is still a prevalent meme.

To get a better understanding of how this meme is still perpetuated, we only need to review the July 30th New York Times article announcing the dismissal of the DNC suit. In the article, "Democrats' Lawsuit Alleging Trump-Russia Conspiracy Is Dismissed," by Sharon LaFraniere, we see:

WASHINGTON A federal judge in Manhattan on Monday dismissed a lawsuit by the Democratic National Committee that had accused President Trump's 2016 campaign, WikiLeaks and Russia of illegally conspiring to damage Hillary Clinton's presidential run.

The Russian government was clearly "the primary wrongdoer" for hacking into Democratic computers and funneling purloined documents to WikiLeaks to disseminate, found Judge John G. Koeltl of the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York. But as a foreign sovereign, he wrote, Russia was immune from any liability.

Restating the highlighted sentence and replacing the word "found" with the synonym "legally determined," we have the following declarative statement which says: Judge John G. Koeltl legally determined that the Russian government was clearly "the primary wrongdoer."

Both versions of the statement are incorrect and shows how the misleading propagation of the DNC's Russiagate narrative persists.

NY Times Investigative Reporter

To better understand the propagation, the credentials of the author of the NY Times article should be a relevant. Mischaracterization by novice reporters may be excusable, but misstatements of facts should have been corrected by knowledgeable editors. Sharon LaFraniere is not a novice reporter rather she has received a Pulitzer Prize for her Russiagate investigations. Her bio on the NY Times website begins with:

Sharon LaFraniere is an investigative reporter at The New York Times and was part of a team that won a Pulitzer Prize in 2018 for national reporting on Donald Trump's connections with Russia.

With an extensive background of investigating the plaintiffs and defendants in this case, it is reasonable to expect that the author would have neither inserted a misleading frame into the discussion nor left out the most important part of the frame that provides context to the words that Judge John G. Koeltl "found" in his decision.

The NY Times is not alone in the perpetuation of the erroneous frame about Russiagate. The Associated Press, which claims to be "The definitive source for news," similarly misconstrued the words of Judge John G. Koeltl in an article, "Judge rejects Democrats case against Trump 2016 campaign," by Larry Neumeister.

"U.S. District Judge John G. Koeltl said Russia was "undoubtably" the primary wrongdoer in the alleged criminal enterprise, but the country can't be sued in U.S. courts except in special circumstances not present in this case."

The Erroneous, Misleading Frame

But the frame applied to Judge John G. Koeltl's finding was wrong and is misleading because the sourced statement was a contained in a "motion to dismiss." In deciding a motion to dismiss the allegations in the complaint are accepted as true, and all reasonable inferences must be drawn in the plaintiff's favor.

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Licensed Professional Engineer dealing with energy issues. Active in promoting the ethics of the engineering profession by calling on ASCE to retract the papers by Bazant et al they have published (and continue to stand by - in contradiction to (more...)
 

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Why "Russiagate" Still has Legs; How Misinformation Propagates

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